In 2012, NEVS acquired the majority of Saab Automobile AB’s assets and now, two years later, production has begun on their promised Saab 9-3 EV. In August of 2013, the Trollhättan Saab plant reopened and just over a month later, the first NEVS Saab came off the line to allow testing of new components and equipment. By the end of 2013, NEVS began selling directly to consumers, similarly to the way Tesla has done.
This will soon not be the only similarity between the two companies as Saab has sent out its first 200 electric 9-3s to Qingdao, China for government testing and to be fitted with batteries. This is no coincidence, as the city of Qingdao is a 22% stakeholder in NEVS and Saab aims to make China a primary target for sales.
In their current form the 9-3s only hold enough charge for a paltry 20 mile drive, but these numbers are expected to increase to a 115-mile range through development at NEVS battery factory, located in Beijing. Though details are limited, typical electric vehicle designs are being followed here and undercarriage mounted batteries will help keep as even a weight distribution as possible.
Saab has had a number of slogans over the years but a focus on the driving experience has been centric to Saab’s design and marketing over the years. Center-mounted window and lock controls keep the driver’s left hand steady, and there have always been a number of turbo models in their lineups. Advanced controls and amenities (like heated seats!) kept driving comfortable the whole year long, but behind these advanced features lie advanced electronics that are often where many Saabs go wrong.
Back in 2009, I purchased a 1995 Saab 9000CSE that had all of the above features with 126k miles for just $1,200. Leather, sunroof, heated seats, blah, blah, blah. Fun to drive and decent on gas, it started every time, but around the second month of ownership, I began to see the Saab’s many electrical gremlins. The climate control, radio, power windows and windshield wipers would cut out randomly, but not all at the same time, and the passenger’s power seat became stuck all the way forward. (The only car I’ve ever known that nobody ever called shotgun for. -Chris).
I put up with it on cold New England days with no heat. I put up with it in New York City traffic after an August Yankees game with no A/C. Then one day the windows wouldn’t work when a heavy storm was rolling in and taped up garbage bags were my only solution. This was the proverbial straw on the camel’s back that led me to selling this complexly beautiful car.
These problems are not exactly “few and far between” on Saab forums. With electrical issues seeming to affect a wide range of models and years, it would be a serious concern if I were in the market for a Saab that relies almost entirely on electrical components.
That being said, hopefully the 20% of newly designed parts that have gone into the “new” Saab 9-3 will alleviate these concerns for potential buyers when the Saab electric lineup begins. With their sleek designs and dedicated fan base, Saab is the brand you hate to love, and it simply refuses to die.